What Is Life Worth?: The Unprecedented Effort to Compensate the Victims of 9/11

Kenneth Feinberg, Author . Public Affairs $24 (213p) ISBN 978-1-58648-323-4

When Feinberg writes that "[t]he cacophony of arguments validated my original preference: to refuse to evaluate individual suffering" midway through this frank memoir, the reader already trusts him enough to know that he is not being crass or unfeeling: he is being honest. By then, Feinberg, a lawyer who has been on two presidential commissions and has done Agent Orange litigation, has established his judicious forthrightness and his dedication to "the success of the fund"—getting as many families as possible to opt in to the trust, which he headed and which was established to award cash to the 9/11 victims, rather than sue the government. The problem: how, and how much? Feinberg's willingness to put himself into the book makes what could have been an alternately dry and self-serving case study crackle with care, frustration, intellectual energy and good writing. Feinberg and his team ran through every argument and counterargument for compensation and its various possible permutations, and he presents the debate, and his ultimate conclusions as head of the 9/11 fund, with an earned conviction and clarity, even on stat-heavy pages. With its combination of a strong personality, undeniably compelling subject matter and a great title, this understated, passionate trek into the dismal terrain is likely to be a major surprise bestseller. Anything but macabre, it ends up, in its own way, celebrating life. (June 13)

Reviewed on: 05/30/2005
Release date: 06/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 213 pages - 978-1-58648-451-4
Ebook - 256 pages - 978-0-7867-4815-0
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